In my earlier blog post I gave a short description of a graphic design course I signed up for at NAFA, Singapore. Check that post if you wanna know about the content of the course, organization, scheduling etc. In this writeup, since the course is already over, I’ll just add on some new thoughts on course quality!
The academy gives rather generic information about the content of courses and I couldn’t find a review anywhere online, I figured I’ll write my own impressions about the course and how useful I found it (in case somebody wants to sign up in the future and wondering if its worth it).
What I was looking for (quite a lot ;p):
- Strong theoretical principles of design and related aspects. I already had some practice so I mostly wanted the academic knowledge (usually the stuff everybody wants to skip when doing a degree but I guess perspective changes when older ;p)
- Learn the science on how do humans perceive colours, what colours (and why) go well together and others don’t, similar about shapes, distance, perspective. How light changes the perception of all those things etc.
- How do shadows, shading and reflections add depth to design etc.
- What are different schools/ historical trends in design. How to compose a design (how should a scene look like and what effects do we get by including certain compositions), how does design effect vary depending of objects in the scene (humans, animals, items ?)
- What are the typical errors and achievements coming out of implementation out of all of those…
What I got:
- (very) little theory
- lot of tips and practical knowledge from experienced pros
- beginner Illustrator/Photoshop tutorial
So comparing my expectations with reality – mostly the course failed to deliver on what I originally wanted and I got little answers to the questions I had. Having said that, it’s not all bad: the course was at times somewhat interesting in the direction it went and I learnt few of things I didn’t know.
The biggest benefit in my view: the teachers push you to work on projects at home as there are a lot of assignments (good!). Furthermore, personally for me, somehow it was a starting point to investigate literature and study the things I wanted to know on my own ( so in other words: bummer for the the course but at least I got motived/pushed into the right direction).
Outside of the fact that the course missed my expectations, I have a feeling it’s rather bad value for money (even tho it’s not particularly expensive). During Visual Communication 1 (Principles of Design), most classes started late and actually teacher had very little to say, so finished early as well. Furthermore, after the few initial introductory classes the majority of this course is just consultations. Teacher approaching each student individually and giving his feedback on the project progress that student develops at home (basically you get ~5 min chat out of what’s supposed to be 3 hour class).
Visual Communication 2 (Digital Design) is more rich in practical knowledge, at least at the beginning. The first 5 classes are packed with learning Illustrator tools one after another, afterwards unfortunately it turns into the same as Principles of Design. Come to the class and teacher basically tells you to do your work (and ask questions if you like).
During the second semester, Visual Communication 3 (Typography & Colour Study), we got surprisingly a bit more theory and slides than VC1/Principles of Design (like I wanted ;p) but unfortunately I think it lacked a form of short in-class exercises that would somehow help to sink in what teacher talked about.
Finally, Visual Communication 4 (Digital Design 2), is exactly the same formula and impressions as Digital Design 1. Except that instead of Illustrator tutorial, it’s 2 classes on Indesign and 3 on Photoshop.
To sum it up you can check out the results of my homework assignments in my portfolio page (and also compare to few projects I could publish and did before the course):
- VC1/Principles of Design – logo/stationary/poster set – ASTRO Science Centre
- VC2/Digital Design 1 – packaging – Octopussade juice
- VC3/Typography and Colour – book covers – Investigative Journalism Series
- VC4/Digital Design 2 – leaflet – Atomic Carnival
Final note: during a single year NAFA can have multiple classes for the exact same course and those are run by different teachers (usually they do it part time too ;p). From my conversations with students from other classes, it turns out that this can make quite a difference (different home assignments, slightly different exercises/curriculum in class).